GayRioGrower
Full Member
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:07 pm
Location: San Diego

5 Gallon Bucket Composting

So while reading through another thread, I saw it mentioned that others do their composting in a 5 gallon bucket. Does that work? Would the pile heat up enough to compost the material? I did an experiment and put a good mix of browns and greens in a bucket, but should I put any holes in it to allow airflow? It's a white bucket, and I was thinking about spray painting it black, but didn't want to if would cause any problems, so whats your take on that? Anything else I should know?
We the people...

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

If you don't have lots of air holes, it isn't composting, because composting is by definition aerobic. It will still break down, my kitchen scraps in tightly closed bucket under the sink start heating up and breaking down in the up to a week that they wait before being dumped on the pile. But anerobic decomposition is a different, much stinkier, process, that can result in bad bacteria and a slimy mess.

I've never done the bucket composting (except as noted above!) but I know the traditional wisdom on composting is that it works better and heats up better with more volume in the pile. But less good doesn't mean it won't work. I'm all for people doing the experiments and letting us know the results! :)
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

I I were you I would make a bag of polyester felt.

I have one suspended on a frame that serves as a worm bin. If I add too much bokashi it heats up. The last time this happened the temp was above 140. Just a few gallons of material.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Just to clarify, Toil is talking about vermicomposting, aka worm bins, which is a slightly different concept than regular compost piles/ bins.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
Gary350
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4791
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 5:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

I collect 5 gallon bucket from construction sites. Most of my buckets are more than 10 years old and the plastic is cracked in several places. I like the black buckets for composting in the summer because they get very hot in full sun. I set them in full sun with a black plywood lid and they heat up to 150 degrees F. The cracks probably let air in and out and the lid is not sealed so its not an air tight compost. I read online that there is a bacteria or something in soil that compost needs so I always throw in at least 1 hand full of dirt. I also throw in a couple hands full of wood ash. Mix well and place it in the garage. I pee in the compost several times every day until it starts to smell like ammonia then I place it in the yard in full sun. Iv about 30 days it is completely composted. This only works during the summer June, July and August when I can get the temperature of the compost in the bucket very hot in full sun. I have a 5 ft diameter compost pile in the corner of my garden that I put all my other stuff in, tree leaves, grass clipping, corn stalks, garden plants, kitchen scraps, dirt, wood ash, etc. It heats up way down deep inside during the winter but it does not completely compost over the winter.

Last fall I did an experement I kept a 5 gallon bucket compost in the house all winter. A few weeks ago I checked it and all the organic stuff, leaves, plants, grass, etc. looked like a very dark color crumbly material almost looks like dark brown saw dust. I used it in my plant trays to start seeds. I assume the 70 deg temperature inside the house helped it compost faster than being outside in freezing temperatures all winter.

I was reading online about the way things were done over 100 years ago and it said people use to heat their houses mostly with wood and they had lots of wood ash that went into their compost. Wood ash in the compost produces a lot of nitrogen along with the farm animal manure. Wood ash contain high amounts of potassium hydroxide that turns into potassium nitrate and ammonia. The high nitrogen makes it decompose much faster than normal. I don't have any farm animals but I can pee in it several times every day.
Last edited by Gary350 on Mon May 03, 2010 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

rainbowgardener wrote:Just to clarify, Toil is talking about vermicomposting, aka worm bins, which is a slightly different concept than regular compost piles/ bins.
yeah but I'm saying just a sack o' polyester felt would let you hot compost 5 gallons. At least it would if you fed it bokashi. If I did it by accident you can do it on purpose.


I think the secret is that the bag breathes, so you basically have a floating pile that can get air from every inch of surface. For batch composting I would make bags with a bottom, not funnels like mine.

worth trying...
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

User avatar
!potatoes!
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1882
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:13 pm
Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

i was talking about vermicomposting in 5gal buckets, too, but nothing non-worm. I'm more a proponent of big heaps for 'regular' composting.

Toil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 803
Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:18 pm
Location: drifting, unmoored

5 gal buckets would not be my first choice then.
There's something new growing in the Helpful Gardener Forum! Become a part of it here!

Burt Bronson
Newly Registered
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:04 am

Thanks for some of the tips on bucket composting. I am new to composting and have been experimenting my way thru it with a five gallon bucket for about six months with some tips on this forum.

I am pretty proactive with it and stir the pot every other day so it all seems to break down with ease. Living in a pretty warm area must help all this (110 degree summers).

I do have a question on eggshells though. We went down to one of our local eaterys and asked for what they had and they gave us about forty shells of the "White Gold" we sorted thru it and semi cleaned them with the fear of salmonella. and thru it in. Now im thinking about the salmonella and weather its safe for my garden.

Any input on the shells. Thanks in advance.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Should be fine... you aren't eating the eggshells, they are going in the compost and then in the soil. I throw unwashed eggshells in my compost all the time.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

GayRioGrower
Full Member
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:07 pm
Location: San Diego

Thanks for all the input guys and gals. :) Before I put the ingredients to compost, I mashed and chopped the crap out of it, and what I was left with almost looked liked finished compost. The ingredients got fairly warm in just a day, when sticking my hand in the middle I could notice a heat fluctuation. I then peed in it as suggested, and left it to bake in the sun. I wasn't home for a day, and when I got back my father in law had dumped the bucket into the yard waste and took it to the street, so all that good stuff got wasted. He had thought it was waste left in a bucket that got filled with rain water, so he wanted to get rid of it. Kind of sucks, my experiment got a little side tracked, but I am confident that I can produce a good compost in a 5 gallon bucket in the hot sun in San Diego. I do have a 3x3x4 bin I made out of chicken wire, but am having a hard timefilling it up, so I think I'll do my experiment again, but make sure everyone knows what I'm doing so that doesn't happen again. I'm gonna drill some holes in the bucket this time and paint it black to speed up the process, but will track my progress as the days pass. I'm excited to see what happens, and expect it to be finished in about a months time in my climate, especially with the hot summer soon aproaching. So thank you for giving me the idea, and I look forward to sharing my progress.
We the people...

Return to “Composting Forum”